Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be giving you a detailed run-down of the new zones in Legion and what you can expect from each of them. Highmountain was my first choice to level in for a couple of reasons, most especially because it has a lot to offer my main and her long-term investment in both Leatherworking and Skinning as professions. It also happens to be the location of the Hunter Class Order Hall, which means I ended up there before choosing which zone I wanted to start my questing journey within. Mostly, I found myself drawn to the place, which is a curious mix of Northrend’s Grizzly Hills, and anywhere on Kalimdor where you’re likely to bump into the Tauren. Highmountain is a gorgeously rendered mix of mountains, forests, and flowing water… but more on that later. First off, you should know what you’re getting yourself in for and the conflict you find yourself become an arbitrator within.
When you arrive in the zone, the Pillar of Creation that you’re looking for (the Hammer of Khaz’goroth) has been stolen by the normally peaceful Drogba, whose new leader is living in the lair of previous bad guy, Deathwing, or as he’s more formally known, Neltharion. This is where some of you might experience some variance between lore you thought you knew, and history as it has been written for the purposes of Legion. I’d suggest at this point simply smiling and carrying on because these alterations don’t really detract from the zone or the storylines.
The place itself was named after the great Huln Highmountain, from whom all these Tauren have descended, and it’s a society with moose horns and a love of decoration and detail. It will be your job to first unite the warring and disparate clans (and in at least one instance, expose a terrible secret about them) and then head into Neltharion’s Lair to pick up the hammer. This is a theme you’ll see played out across all of the leveling content; if you want all of the Pillars, you’ll need to be sociable and complete the relevant dungeons which contain them.
Highmountain is gorgeous, especially from the air; a mix of Yosemite National Park, the Swiss Alps, and Mount Everest, according to the design team, and teeming with new high-quality models of pretty much everything you’ll now see replaced and updated in the old world. However, the most exciting change (at least for me), is that water is no longer static and uninteresting. There are currents to sweep the unwary downstream (and during my first days of questing, off a waterfall to my death). There are also Treasures found in the currents too, but we’ll get to those in a minute.
What I want to mention here is that the ‘Clans’ questline is only part of a fairly substantive set of tasks you can choose (or not) to undertake whilst here. If you use leather for anything, especially if a Skinner, I’d suggest visiting Mr. H. Nesingwary Esq, who is in the zone to make the most of the new opportunities presented. There’s also some lovely encounters with Kobolds and Murlocs, plus lots of stuff that happens underground. Note to the smart: look for cave entrances, as many of the roads don’t go up mountains, but through them.
Then, of course, there are the by now obligatory treasures, and as I mentioned flying previously, the one item I’d suggest trying to obtain early is the beautiful and totally essential Rocfeather Skyhorn Kite. It may not help you get up to places but it makes coming down so much easier, and totally elegant. It’s made up of treasures from four chests in the zone, and these are more than worth your time because it isn’t just relevant armor and toys to collect: many of these have Artifact Power ‘tokens’ hidden inside that you’ll find quite useful to supplement your Class Order Hall Mission supplies, plus the quest rewards you’ll be given. I’ve found that doing other quests also means you’ll end up picking up these items or running into rares without any real need to use an addon. In fact, I’d strongly suggest ignoring the Map of Highmountain Treasures that you can pick up as a reputation reward until you’re bored and well past 110. Discovering these things is half the surprise.
It is worth mentioning also at this point just how bug and lag free my entire time in the zone was, and that I was able to put on four levels before I left, making sure I’d completed all the quests and the vast majority of the Bonus Objective areas. Another point I should make here, that will go for all the zones going forward, is that these areas no longer require you to kill a specific group or sets of mobs; instead, you’re given a percentage total and all activity in the area effectively counts towards it. There was, however, one quest that was a problem, but as I am aware this ‘bug’ was encountered by everyone, and one can only hope that if you’re reading this and running the scenario, which shows how Huln Highmountain single-handedly defeated the Legion, that it has been fixed. If not, expect a lot of company and to have to be a bit creative with your completion.
As these screenshots show, I’m a great fan of the detail in this zone, and the dungeon that’s your final destination is a decent mix of water mechanics, and the steam and heat of a volcanic lair. It includes probably my favorite entry into a dungeon ever (it’s like being at a water park!) and involves a section where you have to jump in a barrel to be literally carried downstream. However what sets this whole experience apart from every expansion previous is the fact that you don’t all need to be the same level to benefit from appropriate rewards. In fact, there was a six level gap between me and my random compatriots in this dungeon and everyone still received appropriate loot for their level. The scaling technology is the jewel in Blizzard’s crown this time around and frankly, it makes life so much easier… unless, of course, you were hoping for low-level mobs to skin for easy leather.
Speaking with my professions hat on for a moment, this is the only downside to the scaling mobs. Once upon a time, I could go back to lower-level zones and kill quicker and easier, but with the changes to the number of skins each mob yields as you improve in skill? It is not the end of the world. In fact, I maxed skinning within 48 hours and made a point to go do the second level of quests to make sure everybody I encounter might yield a Blood of Sargeras. There’s a nice little pile of those waiting for max-level, and the time I get to finishing all the side quests to allow them to be used. I left Highmountain at the weekend, having spent pretty much the whole of the first five days of Legion in the zone, but I still need to go back for a rare fish spawn and a chat with Aviana…
There’s a temptation to be a fangirl at this point, but I don’t need to gush. This zone has been meticulously planned, and very deliberately constructed with one intention in mind: immersion. When the tech lets it down the disconnect is very apparent, but the majority of the time that simply doesn’t happen and if you decide you want to be lost, then you can be. Whether you roleplay your character around the zone or simply stop to take in the views and the detail in just about everything, there is very little to dislike about Highmountain. The problems will come, undoubtedly, with players who cannot grasp that there’s no such thing as an easy mob anymore, or who have become so dependent on playing the game as quickly as possible that they have forgotten to slow down and take in what’s around them.
If you’re the person already complaining they need flying to make this journey worthwhile, or that it’s feeling like you’re simply running behind everybody else, this expansion may not be for you because this is a fundamental redefinition of Warcraft’s scope and reach that will last well into the next ten years. The launch of the Class Order Hall and World Quest ‘companion’ mobile app this week only serves to reinforce the point: parts of this game can be played away from your computer, but for everything else, there will need to be a commitment not only to the changes but the evolution going forward.
For me, I’m happier than I have been in-game since well before Cataclysm. Once you accept there is only so much time you have and that you’re never going to beat anyone to anything with your restrictions in game time, the world becomes a far easier and far more mellow place. In fact, if I had the chance, I’d probably live in Highmountain once 110 is reached, but not in the Hunter Class Hall. There are some lovely wooden shacks down on the Rockaway Coast with my name on them, delicate structures of driftwood that I think I could happy live in and improve as time goes on. I’m glad I started my journey here and am genuinely excited for the journey into a new zone to come.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Guides, Legion, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday